Contributed by Katie Levy, Adventure-Inspired
When it comes to hiking in New England, there’s no shortage of options. Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, and all of the beautiful state lands in between are great destinations for a day or an extended trip. On a recent visit to New England, I got to see a not-so-hidden gem that’s well-known and easily accessible, but still pretty special.
About Mount Monadnock
Southwestern New Hampshire’s Monadnock State Park is home to, and essentially exists due to, the presence of 3,165-foot Mount Monadnock. My Boston-based hiking partners described Mount Monadnock as “a giant rock in the middle of fields and woods,” which is, for all intents and purposes, exactly what the mountain looks like.
The term “monadnock” has Native American roots; it’s a word used to describe isolated hills or mountains. As a result of Mount Monadnock’s prominence relative to the surrounding landscape, it’s an incredible sight to behold. The peak is nearly 1,000 feet higher than any neighboring mountain and the summit rewards hikers with expansive views in every direction once you’ve climbed the requisite 2,000+ feet of elevation.
Getting to the Park and Activity Options
Monadnock State Park is also easy to get to, even from Boston; it took our crew an hour and 45 minutes to get from Brighton, Massachusetts to the park. When we arrived at park headquarters just after 10 am on a sunny spring Saturday, the first of two large parking lots was already full. Given how easy the park is to get to and how close the summit trails are to major roadways, it was no surprise. We paid the $5 per person entrance price and received a map with all trails leading to the summit of Mount Monadnock clearly labeled.
In addition to the trails around park headquarters, the summit is accessible via Gilson Pond due east of the mountain, Dublin Lake to the north, an old toll road to the south, and a handful of other access points. And if hiking all day isn’t an appealing activity option for you, Monadnock State Park offers campgrounds with showers, canoe rentals, and kayak rentals in the summer, as well as Nordic skiing and snowshoeing during the winter.
Climbing the Mountain
On our trip, my hiking partners and I chose the direct and popular White Dot Trail as our path up Mount Monadnock on recommendation from one of the park rangers. It starts just outside the park visitor center, and as with most trails up the mountain, you’re climbing as soon as you set foot on the trail.
Though the White Dot Trail is wide enough for two or more hikers to walk side by side initially, the trail isn’t always easily passable. Less than a mile into the hike, you’ll find yourself climbing hand over hand up rock faces and over boulders. It makes what would otherwise be a typical hike significantly more interesting. After spending the first half of the hike up in the trees, we popped out of the woods and spent the rest of the hike with the summit in clear view. It took our little crew a bit over two hours to make the trip to the summit and back, not including the half hour we spent wandering around on top of the mountain. We opted for a detour along the steeper, rockier White Cross Trail on the descent. It was a nice change of scenery, but given how steep it was, I was glad we opted for the White Dot Trail on our climb up.
Things to Know Before You Go
Monadnock State Park is a fantastic option for day hikes, even if you’re as far away as Boston. But be aware that if you arrive later in the morning in good weather, the parking lots near the park headquarters will be crowded. The White Dot Trail is the most direct way up, but if you prefer not to see other people on your hikes, other trails will be better options. Use your Pocket Ranger® app to scope out trails before you go and while you’re there.
Though hand over hand climbing on the White Dot Trail was an added fun bonus for our group, be sure you’ve got appropriate footwear on. And be sure to bring a windbreaker for the summit, even on beautiful summer days—Mount Monadnock’s prominence makes the summit susceptible to high winds.
Have you been to Monadnock State Park? What other tips do you have for first-time visitors? What are some of your favorite trails there, or around that part of New England?